High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine

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Issue 13

 HEP Libraries Webzine
Issue 13 / October 2006

Open Access - What has been going on?

Alma Swan(*)


This article is based on a presentation I was invited to make at the OAI4 meeting in CERN, Geneva, in October 2005 [1]. The invitation requested that I present an overview of what had happened on the Open Access (OA) scene since the previous OAI3 meeting in February 2004, thus effectively giving me roughly an 18-month time-span to cover and I have extended this up to the present (September 2006). In many fields, eighteen months or so can pass with barely a ripple of activity. Not so in the OA field which has seen an enormous number of developments and advances in that time. Necessarily, then, it is only possible to deal with only the headline matters, those that made waves or added another brick or two to the foundation walls of the new construction taking shape in the midst of the scholarly communication world. Here is the story of those couple of years.

Open access publishing (open access journals)

The Directory of Open Access Journals [2], compiled by the University of Lund Library, came into existence in 2003. In the middle of 2004, an enhancement in the form of article-level searching was added. At the time of writing the Directory covers 2400 journals (containing some 109,000 articles), of which approaching one-third are searchable at the article level. Half of the journals covered by the Directory have either been launched or have made their content open access since the year 2000.

By February 2004, BioMed Central (BMC) had been publishing full OA journals for almost three years. It already had over 100 open access titles in its list, and since the beginning of 2004 further BioMed Central journals have published their first articles, taking the total tally to over 160 open access journals from this publisher. During 2004, too, the first BMC journals were awarded impact factors by Thomson ISI's Journal Citation Report (JCR). In total, 25 BMC titles are listed in the latest Journal Citation Reports database. The year 2005 was also one of change on the personnel front at BMC; in the spring, Jan Velterop, who had headed the organisation since its inception, left the company, initially to become an open access consultant. We will see what became of Jan's career move a little later here, but meanwhile back at BMC Dr Matthew Cockerill was appointed as Publisher in Jan's place. In the last few weeks BMC has announced the launch of sister services Chemistry Central and PhysMath Central.

The Public Library of Science launched in 2003, with PLoS Biology, following this up with PLoS Medicine in November 2004. PLoS Biology shot into the Journal Citation Reports database in 2005, achieving top position in the General Biology category with an impact factor of around 13. PLoS launched further new titles in 2005 - Genetics, Computational Biology, and Pathogens - and Clinical Trials in early 2006. The most recent development from PLoS has been PLoS ONE [3], a broad-scope journal covering all science disciplines, with traditional peer review procedures focusing on the technical validity of the research being published, and an open commentary system, post-publication, for the scientific community to provide feedback, ideas and suggestions on published articles.

The last two years have also seen a number of experiments in open access publishing by mainstream publishers. In the main, these have been in the form of adoption of the 'hybrid' model, where articles within an otherwise subscription-access journal are made open access by the publisher in return for an article processing charge (APC). Early adopters of this model have been the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in the US, with its journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Oxford University Press (OUP) in the UK, with Nucleic Acids Research. The NAS levied a charge of $1000 and saw a 16% uptake of the open access option in the early stages of its experiment, with indications that the percentage is growing. OUP saw enough evidence that the model could work that Nucleic Acids Research has ceased to be a hybrid journal and became an entirely author-side pays ('gold') open access journal from the beginning of 2006.

Other mainstream publishers have also decided to offer this hybrid publishing option on a wider scale base to authors. Springer launched Open Choice in 2004, levying a publication fee of $3000 and Blackwell began its Online Open Trial at the beginning of 2005; the publication fee in this case is $2500. This year most of the other large academic publishers have followed suit, with APC programmes now announced by Elsevier, the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Cambridge University Press, the American Physical Society, Wiley, The Royal Society and, in the last few days, Taylor & Francis. Of these, only BMJ, Springer, and Taylor and Francis permit authors to retain copyright.

Are they right to do this? Certainly the evidence from the experiments by the NAS and OUP suggest there is some mileage in this approach. Moreover, our own data indicate that whilst only about 25% of authors have so far submitted an article to an open access journal, 49% intend to do so in the next two years [4]. In this regard, it is interesting that the CEO of Springer, Derk Haank, has taken the step of appointing a Director of Open Access, Jan Velterop (late of BioMed Central), to oversee and drive forward the gold publishing model within that company. This is the first such appointment in a mainstream publishing house and a significant one.

Not all publishers are so bullish, though. In March 2004 a body consisting of 48 (at the time, though there are now around 60) not-for-profit scholarly publishers, mainly scholarly society publishers, met to discuss open access and as a result produced a statement - known as the Washington DC Principles [5] - in which they made a partial commitment to open access, at the same time highlighting a list of fears and anxieties about its possible implications for society publishers. Concurrently, however, one society (at least) took a different tack and, whilst not venturing so far as to adopt the gold publishing model, did go a long way towards providing open access to its journal content. This is the American Society for Cellular and Molecular Biology, which has made the content of its journal Molecular Biology of the Cell freely available from two months after publication, an action that has resulted in increased subscriptions and a large rise in submissions.

The final word on open access publishing has to go to CERN itself. During the early part of 2006 a Task Force was set up to study and report on how particle physics articles might be made open access in journals [6]. The recommendations included the funding of any article processing charges that publishers would levy, by a consortium of experimental laboratories, research funders, and author groups. The report says that sponsoring all journals ready for OA at the time of the enquiry "would require an annual budget of 5-6 million euros, significantly less than the present global expenditure for particle physics journal subscriptions". The report also notes that "the particle physics literature of the past 10 years is nearly 100% freely available through repositories such as arXiv.org, the CERN Document Server, and SLAC SPIRES".

Self-archiving and open access repositories

Whatever the responses of the primary publishers to open access, the secondary publishers (the abstracting and indexing services) have been offered a cornucopia of new content residing in the increasing number of institutional archives that are being established around the world. Currently there are some 700-plus of these, numbers have grown substantially over the last two years (at an average of one per day) and there is an increase in the rate of establishment of repositories as well as in the overall number. The number of repositories, and the software upon which they run, continue to be monitored and published on the eprints.org [7] site run by the School of Electronics & Computer Science at the University of Southampton. To complement this, and to provide some additional information abut repositories, the Directory of Open Access Repositories (DOAR) [8] has been founded, a joint project between the University of Nottingham in the UK and Lund University in Sweden.

The Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), part of Thomson Scientific, has reacted swiftly to this burgeoning content, investing in technical development work during 2005 that resulted in the launch of its new Web Citation Index. This database will be a bedfellow - within the World of Knowledge service - of the Science Citation Index, the Social Sciences Citation Index, the Arts & Humanities Citation Index, Journal Citation Reports, ISI Proceedings and other database products. The Web Citation Index will index the research article content of institutional and subject repositories, assigning similar tags and indexed fields to this content as it does to the published version of articles from journals. ISI announced the development of this new service in December 2004, just one month after Google hit the headlines with the launch of Google Scholar. This covers institutional repositories and subject repositories too but also trawls from websites - in other words, it covers any web-based location where scholarly material resides. It does not, however, formally index the content as the ISI service will; it simply retrieves and presents results based on the usual Google algorithms. A third large player has also entered this game - Elsevier, with its Scirus search engine, which searches websites and repositories for scholarly articles. Scirus is not (yet?) an integral part of the new Scopus search service, but it does have a link from the Scopus site.

Primary publishers have also had a significant influence on open access through self-archiving in the last year and a half. Many of them have declared their 'green' status, permitting authors to self-archive a copy of their article in an institutional or subject repository as a postprint, that is, after peer review and final corrections have been completed. In the summer of 2004, Elsevier, the world's largest STM publisher, made this formal concession, bringing to over 90% the number of journals that permit self-archiving of either the preprint (before peer review) or the postprint of an article.

Other open access initiatives

Publisher moves have been accompanied by open access initiatives from other quarters. A number of national-level developments have occurred in the last two years. The Australian Government pledged a round of funding for national IT developments that support open access, and has followed this up with a number of initiatives and studies through the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST). In Scotland the Scottish Science Information Strategy Working Group, now renamed the Scottish Open Access Group (OATS), released the Scottish Declaration of Open Access, signed by over twenty universities and research institutes in Scotland. In Italy, 32 university rectors signed the Messina Declaration, committing their institutions to the principles of open access. Further moves towards national policies have also been signalled in Finland, Sweden, the UK, South Africa and the Ukraine.

In the Netherlands the Government-funded body for information issues, DARE, launched the Cream of Science (Keur der Wetenschap) [9]. This latter is a particularly innovative approach to open access. The two hundred most influential Dutch scientists were selected and asked if their articles might be placed in the new Cream of Science repository. Deposition of the articles was carried out by DARE and those articles that were only in hardcopy form were digitised for the purpose. The service was launched with some fanfare in May 2005, by which time word had spread amongst the Dutch scientific community and DARE was receiving numerous requests from authors outside the 'top 200' for their own articles to be included.

Employers and research funders

During the period there has also been some activity on the part of employers and funders. At an institutional level, several universities and research institutions have employed compulsion to help fulfil their aim of getting all their published research into their repository. Those that have so far issued such a mandate are CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, the School of Electronics & Computer Science at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, the University of Minho in Portugal, the University of Zurich in Switzerland and, very recently, the National Institute of Technology at Rourkela in India.

Funders have also begun to develop more far-reaching policies on open access. First into the fray was the US Government in the form of the National Institutes of Health, which, after some rounds of consultation with stakeholders that included researchers, taxpayer groups, patient education and action groups, open information and open access proponents, and publishers, announced a policy - which it called its Public Access Policy - under which it strongly encouraged the researchers it funds to deposit a copy of each article they publish into PubMed Central within 12 months of publication. This fell far short of the hopes of the open access movement, which had demanded a requirement rather than the 'strong encouragement' that emerged, and deposit at the time of publication - true open access - rather than some time within a year after it. The results over the first few months of the policy being in operation were disappointing. Fewer than 4% of the articles that should have been deposited have been deposited. A new round of discussions has begun and NIH is expected to tighten the policy as a result.

In the UK, Research Councils UK (RCUK) deliberated on its own open access policy for twelve months. A draft proposal was published in the early summer of 2005 and rounds of consultation with stakeholders took place in the ensuing months. The eight research councils announced their individual policies in the summer of 2006. In summary, four of them have mandatory policies on self-archiving and one has a strong encouragement. Two others are still to come to a conclusion about what their policy might be. There has been considerable opposition to the policy from publishers, and, as in the USA, perhaps the loudest voice has been that of the 'not-for-profit' publishers, mainly scholarly societies, represented by the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP). Interestingly, along with the numerous learned societies on its member list and contrary to what its name might suggest, this organisation also has amongst its members the largest commercial publishers in the world. Vigorous lobbying of the UK Government via the Department of Trade & Industry took place during the consultation period.

However susceptible to such tactics government departments may be, private research funders do not fall under the spell of publisher obstructions. The UK-based Wellcome Trust, the largest private funder of biomedical research in the world, announced its open access policy in the summer of 2005. Implementation began on October 1 and now, a full year after the policy came into force, an appraisal of its effectiveness falls due. The policy requires reports of any research supported by the Trust to be deposited in PubMed Central (and the Wellcome Trust is building a UK counterpart, to be called UK PubMed Central) within 6 months of publication [10]. In addition, the Trust will pay publication fees for open access journals, estimating that the expenditure level for this will amount to some 2% (and therefore near-negligible fraction) of its total research support.

In the USA, two further moves have been announced which would be very significant for open access if they were to come to fruition. The CURES Act, introduced in December 2005 by Senator Joe Liebermann, proposes to mandate open access to medical research results funded by public money. The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), co-introduced in April by Senator Liebermann and Senator John Cornyn, goes further, and would oblige all federal funding agencies spending more than $100 million per year on 'extramural' research to make results open access. Agencies that would fall under this umbrella include NASA, the NSF and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). The FRPAA has sparked several waves of action - in the form of signed letters of support - from provosts of US universities, with (so far) over 120 provost signatures in favour of the act and 10 against.

Usage and impact studies

Usage and impact studies on the research literature have enjoyed a burst of activity over the last two years and there has been some particular focus on the open access effect, studied across a range of disciplines. Michael Kurtz reported on the increased readership for open access articles in astronomy [11]. Stevan Harnad and his co-workers Tim Brody and Chawki Hajjem embarked upon a broad-scope study across a number of disciplines, looking at the effect of open access on the number of citations an article receives, and when. They were able to show that open access increases the number of citations from 50% to 300% depending upon discipline [12], [13], [14]. In the early summer of 2005, Kristin Antelman [15] and Jonathan Wren [16] also published the results of studies that showed further evidence of similar readership- and citation-enhancing effects of open access. Most recently, Gunter Eysenbach showed that open access articles in the 'hybrid' journal PNAS are more frequently cited [17]. Expect more of this. Michael Kurtz and his team are now looking at the usage of articles in repositories and in journals, comparing the patterns of use of the preprint and the postprint in repositories and the published article in the journal. Stevan Harnad and his team are extending their work across new disciplines and at the same time developing the software that will provide a new arsenal of bibliometric measures that will far exceed the current ones, such as journal impact factor, in sophistication and granularity.

Other moves that relate to open access

As well as the specific initiatives described in this report so far, there have been a couple of other moves that may have a significant impact on open access. First, there is the increasing number of mandatory requirements on behalf of research funders and other bodies for the data generated in the course of research to be made openly available to the rest of the community. Already, such requirements have been issued by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the OECD, the Wellcome Trust, the UK Research Councils, the journal Nature and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors.

Second, there is the march of e-science. Global collaborations, huge or multiple datasets, sophisticated computational techniques and multi-nodal projects characterise this type of science, examples of which are found in a whole range of disciplines from chemistry through physics, molecular biology, environmental sciences, geosciences, biomedicine (such as epidemiology) to social sciences. In fact, the term e-research is the more proper one to use here, since this form of approach and method extends out of science and into allied and other disciplines. The notion of e-depots for findings, methodologies, databases and software development underlies, inculcates and characterises this type of research: open access is the natural extension to this way of operating for the researchers of the net-generation.

I have singled out these two developments because it seems they will have a significant effect on the way open access is accepted and propagated over the next period. Both of them are founded upon the values of information-sharing and collaborative effort, values that are starting to characterise scholarly endeavour ever more strongly, and values that open access proponents espouse and embrace. The Web, born at CERN, has brought about the information society, and the notions of commonality, openness and sharing are part of its foundation. Open access to the scholarly research literature is a natural development in this new environment, one that is set to optimise the research effort and the benefits it brings to society.


[1] OAI4 meeting in CERN, Geneva, in October 2005.
URL: <http://oai4.web.cern.ch/OAI4/>

[2] Directory of Open Access Journals.
URL: <http://www.doaj.org/>

[3] PLoS ONE.
URL: <http://www.plosone.org/>

[4] Swan, Alma and Brown, Sheridan. (2005), Open Access self-archiving: An author study, published by the JISC.
URL: http://www.keyperspectives.co.uk/openaccessarchive/reports/Open%20Access%20II%20(author%20survey%20on%20self%20archiving)%202005.pdf>
or <http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/Open%20Access%20Self%20Archiving-an%20author%20study.pdf>

[5] Washington DC Principles.
URL: <http://www.dcprinciples.org/>

[6] Report of the Task Force on Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics (2006). CERN, Geneva.
URL: <http://library.cern.ch/OATaskForce_public.pdf>

[7] Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR).
URL: <http://archives.eprints.org/>

[8] Directory of Open Access Repositories (DOAR).
URL: <http://www.opendoar.org/>

[9] The Netherlands' Cream of Science (Keur der Wetenschap).
URL: <http://www.creamofscience.org/>

[10] Wellcome Trust: Open and unrestricted access to the outputs of published research (policy summary and latest developments). Page updated 20 September 2006.
URL: <http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/node3302.html>

[11] Kurtz, M. (2004), "Restrictive access policies cut readership of electronic research journal articles by a factor of two".
URL: <http://opcit.eprints.org/feb19oa/kurtz.pdf>

[12] Harnad, S and Brody, T. (2004), "Comparing the impact of open access (OA) vs. non-OA articles in the same journals", D-Lib Magazine, 10(6).
URL: <http://www.dlib.org/dlib/june04/harnad/06harnad.html>

[13] Hajjem, C., Gingras, Y., Brody, T., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2005), Open Access to Research Increases Citation Impact, Technical Report, Institut des sciences cognitives, Université du Québec à Montréal.
URL: <http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/11687/>

[14] Hajjem, C., Harnad, S. and Gingras, Y. (2005), "Ten-Year Cross-Disciplinary Comparison of the Growth of Open Access and How it Increases Research Citation Impact", IEEE Data Engineering Bulletin, 28(4), pp. 39-47.
URL: <http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/12906/>

[15] Antelman, K. (2005), "Do open-access articles have a greater research impact?", College & Research Libraries, 65 (1), 372-282.

[16] Wren, J. (2005), "Open access and openly accessible: a study of scientific publications shared via the internet", BMJ 330:1128 (14 May), doi:10.1136/bmj.38422.611736.E0 (published 12 April 2005)
URL: <http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/330/7500/1128?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&author1=wren'>

[17] Eysenbach, G. (2006), "Citation advantage of open access articles", PLoS Biology, 4(5).
URL: <http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10%2E1371%2Fjournal%2Epbio%2E0040157>

Author Details

Alma Swan
Key Perspectives Ltd
Truro, United Kingdom
Email: a.swan@talk21.com

For citation purposes:

Alma Swan. "Open Access - What has been going on?" High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine, issue 13, October 2006.
URL: < http://library.cern.ch/HEPLW/13/papers/1/ >

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Last modified:  29 October 2006